Law bans insurers from dropping coverage
Age is one reason insurance companies may drop health coverage. Sickness is another. Called rescission, the practice of canceling coverage when a person gets ill is banned under the new health care law.
The ban officially takes effect this month, but the insurance industry volunteered to comply in May following media reports Wellpoint targeted women with breast cancer for cancellation — a charge the company denies.
"We're going to hold [insurers'] feet to the fire," says Praeger, the Kansas Insurance Commissioner. "They won't be able to drop coverage unless there's a clear intent to defraud."
That means if you purposefully lie — you say you don't smoke when you do — coverage could still be dropped. An honest mistake, such as failing to disclose you've been treated for acne, doesn't meet that threshold, Praeger says.
Experts advise consumers to be upfront on an insurance application and don't be afraid to call your doctor with medical history questions. If you believe your coverage was wrongly rescinded or you have a claims dispute your provider can't settle, call your state insurance department, which regulates plan providers and agents in your state.
Also be on alert for rising prices.
"Insurance companies can still price people off of plans, but we hope it will be less likely with scrutiny by the new Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight," says Leigh Ann Bradley, a spokeswoman for the non-profit Patient Advocate Foundation.
The OCIIO is working closely with state insurance commissioners to enforce major provisions in the law and will help states review insurance rates.